Peace be with you

Bible Passage: 
John 20:19-31
Pastor: 
Pastor Glen
Sermon Date: 
2014-04-27

You have memories locked away in your mind like money locked away in a vault. You don’t even bring these memories out except in rare moments. They are those memories of intense fear that was present at some time in your life. If we were to get together and share stories about the most fearful events in our lives we would probably discover some very interesting events locked away in our memory banks. I remember an event that occurred during my junior year in college (1973) in December in Neenah, Wisconsin. My roommate in college and I were traveling in his hometown with several guys packed in the car. When we came to the train tracks the train tracks were on an angle so that you could not see around the corner or be able to look down the tracks. There were no lights at the train crossing. There was no crossing gate just a stop sign. The driver asked me if I saw anything. I sat in the passenger seat closest to the window and with the best view the oncoming train traffic. When I tried to look through the frost covered window I said: “I cannot see anything.” As we started to go across the tracks I saw clearly the bright white light of the oncoming train and then the sound of a blaring horn as we barely got over the tracks. For that split second and the moments that followed dreadful fear overwhelmed me. Paralyzing fear can stop a very healthy strong man or woman from doing anything. Fear grips our hearts. Fear can get its start in overwhelming obstacles or extreme loss and loneliness. The disciples of Jesus were locked behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. The Jewish ruling council had crucified Jesus. Were they next? The disciples of Jesus were confused and fearful of the Jews who had put their Lord on trial, arrested and crucified him. But their loss of the physical presence of their Lord had an impact on their lives. So did the physical presence of their Lord have an impact on their lives. Today we begin a new sermon series about the mission of Jesus. He was sent by the Father to carry out his mission. We see some of the concluding scenes of that mission clearly in the gospel lesson for today. It was the evening of that first Easter. The message of the empty tomb had been shared with the women and Peter and John had gone to the empty tomb to check it out. The bewildered and confused apostles gathered together behind locked doors. “ On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Why? Why were these capable men who had followed Jesus paralyzed by the fear of the Jews and what changed them? First of all it was the Risen Lord who came into their midst. Jesus’ presence cheered them. The message they had heard earlier in the day was true. The message of Jesus was a part of his mission: “Peace be with you.” Jesus wounds that paid for their sins cheered them. Jesus message of peace and forgiveness through what he had done for them changed their attitude and their outlook. Jesus message of peace and forgiveness came to them and comes to us from our living Lord and Savior. “Peace be with you.” They are not hollow words or simple words of greeting like and hi, how are you. Every single day the message of his presence and power in our lives is important in dealing with loss and loneliness. That same living Lord who reassured his fearful, confused disciples directs our lives in the face of the obstacles of sin, death, loneliness and fear. He is the source of strength and peace and joy. Jesus calls us to hear the message of peace and forgiveness. “Peace be with you.” The paralyzing fear the disciples felt has been evident in our lives and in the lives of friends and relatives. We understand because we've been there. Family and friends die or move away. Life situations change. Things we once relied upon are no longer trustworthy or dependable. Loss and loneliness are tough. This is why we need to hear the words of our all loving and ever present Lord. “Peace be with you.” At the end of that Easter day the Jews who had made the disciples fearful were still there and would be there at Pentecost and beyond. The difference is that Jesus stood in their hearts proclaiming peace with God and his ongoing presence with them as they faced fearful events in their lives. Jesus did not offer a worldly peace that removes the warring factions but peace with God and the presence of God in the midst of their challenges. Jesus was sent on a mission and that mission began when he came into our world as our brother and then in the flesh as our brother won the victory for us. He earned our salvation. He finished the work that declares us not guilty and then as a missionary he made sure that the message was shared. And how would that message be shared? The Apostle John tells us: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Jesus gave his apostles the power to proclaim this message not just among themselves but to a dying and sinful world around from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the uttermost parts of the world and that is why we have it today because Jesus sent his disciples. There is not one disciple whether man or woman of Jesus who immediately believed the message of Jesus resurrection but the Holy Spirit empowered each one to believe the message. The ten heard that message on that first Easter and Thomas heard the message from the apostles but he would not believe the message from their lips. He needed the visual presence of Jesus and his touch to be sure at least that is what he demanded. Yet, Jesus in his love came to Thomas the following week with the same message and the same mission as the previous week. The Apostle John writes: 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Thomas represents the hardened doubts and fears of us all in the face of extreme loss and loneliness. But the presence and words of Jesus changed the unbelieving heart of Thomas even as he convinces us from the words that tell us all about what Jesus had done. The latter words of this text are a reminder how God the Holy Spirit has removed the doubts and fears at the sight of loss and loneliness and overwhelming odds. 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. The Lord God in calling us to faith has called us into an eternal relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us the message of peace that he has established with his father and us. He has empowered us with the Holy Spirit who works through the gospel in word and sacraments. Just think, on that evening of his resurrection Jesus was concerned about you and me and the people around us. That is why he gave to the believers the authority to pronounce that message of forgiveness to all who believe it by the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus speaks to us all when he says I am sending you with the message of peace. I am sending you with the power of the Spirit. I am sending you with the authority to forgive. God sends us to our families, neighbors and people at our work place. By God’s grace we know the message. God the Holy Spirit uses that message to prepare us to answer to the hope that we have so that we are not paralyzed with fear and someone asks us what we believe. We want to be ready with the message of Christ’s peace when our friends and enemies express their fears and doubts about God’s love for them. Thomas really did not believe Jesus rose. The message of Jesus resurrection really changed his life. That message is given to us today in real fearful events so that we might know the same Lord stand in the midst of hearts with the same message to believe, rejoice in and share. What is that message? “Peace be with You.”

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